Clemency cash could ease backlog

File photo
File photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A Florida commission that helps investigate clemency cases is anticipating an influx of cash that could significantly boost its staffing levels, a “crucial” component to speed up the state’s mercy process.

Florida lawmakers have agreed to give $750,000 to the Florida Commission on Offender Review to help alleviate a backlog of nearly 24,000 clemency cases wait-listed for review by the Board of Executive Clemency, comprised of Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet.

The money is tucked into the $91.1 billion state budget proposed for the upcoming 2019-2020 fiscal year. The budget is pending approval by DeSantis.

If the governor signs off on the spending, the commission wants to hire 15 full-time staffers to help chip away at the unresolved cases, which include applications from felons seeking to have their civil rights restored.

“The additional funds and staff will be crucial in helping the commission process more cases,” Kelly Corder, a commission spokeswoman, said. “It would be more than hundreds, but I can’t specify further than that.”

The move to inject more money into the clemency process comes after state lawmakers zeroed out the commission’s budget request for $500,000 last year, when former Gov. Rick Scott was at the helm.

“There’s been disappointment from many of us over the last several years in the system that was in place with the Cabinet before and how they handled clemency petitions,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said in late April.

Bradley was referring to Scott’s eight years overseeing the clemency process, which was marred by controversy that began shortly after the Republican governor took office in 2011. Scott, now a U.S. senator, and the Florida Cabinet imposed new clemency rules that made it harder for felons to have their rights restored.